Employee Pulls Gun on Customer; KFC Not Liable

employee screeningThey say “Dog Bites Man” is not news, but “Man Bites Dog” is. In an unusual case in Pennsylvania, a fast-food employee pulled a gun out and pistol-whipped a customer. Why? Because he was taking too long to place his order.

Sad, but true. The customer suffered a concussion and other injuries and, not surprisingly, sued KFC. Among other claims, the customer said KFC was negligent because they had not conducted a background check on the employee, and should have known he had a propensity for violence.

KFC did have a policy in place prohibiting employees from bringing weapons to work, but only conducted employee screening on candidates for management positions. The federal district court in Pennsylvania rejected the customer’s claim and said KFC was not legally required to conduct criminal background checks on front line employees. In addition, a background check would have revealed that the employee did have two convictions for nonviolent crimes on his record—but not that KFC could have known he would bring a gun to work and use it.

While not legally required, conducting background checks on employees is still a sound practice. Putting your business, your customers and staff at risk can leave you liable in certain circumstances. While the owner of this KFC did not have to pay damages to the plaintiff, the story could have had a much more serious ending—and nobody wants to put their customers at risk for their lives.

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